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Supporting Survivors in Navigating Domestic Abuse, Self-Care, and the Holidays

Navigating the holiday season is often portrayed as a time of joy and togetherness for people, but for survivors of domestic violence, it can bring unique challenges that can be overlooked. This blog post will bring to light some of the common challenges survivors face during the holidays and explore ways to support survivors during this difficult time to prioritize self-care and well-being.

Holiday Challenges for Survivors

  • Parties and Family Gatherings: The prospect of encountering potential perpetrators or unsupportive family and friends during gatherings can be not only unsafe but triggering for survivors.

  • Financial Stresses: The pressure of gift-buying, decorating costs, and hosting large meals becomes an added burden during the holidays, particularly for those experiencing financial abuse. Whether the person is someone who is currently experiencing the immediate effects of the financial abuse or if they are dealing with the long-term effects of it, the stress is all the same and can be overwhelming in a time of hosting and gift-giving.

  • Co-Parenting with an Abusive Ex-Partner: Balancing holiday celebrations when children are involved poses additional challenges, adding stress to survivors in an already trying season. Author Jess Hill says, “[A survivor can] choose to leave an abusive relationship. But the choice to end the abuse is not in their hands.” Just because a survivor has left the relationship does not mean they are able to avoid the continued effects of the abuse.

  • Isolation from Outside Contacts: Feeling compelled to participate in events while being isolated by an abusive partner creates internal conflict and strains relationships with others for survivors.

Helping Promote Self-Care

When supporting survivors during the stress of the holidays, it goes far past just helping them to recognize the stress they are facing. It’s crucial to promote prioritizing self-care for mental health and healing. Here are tips you can share and encourage, broken into five key areas:

Physical Self-Care:
  • Paying attention to sleep, nutrition, exercise, and daily routines.

  • Incorporating activities like stretching, movement, and staying hydrated.

  • Engaging in restful activities such as massage or soaking in a bath.

Emotional Self-Care:
  • Identifying activities that bring joy and relaxation.

  • Setting boundaries around emotional space, choosing what and who influences the survivor.

  • Utilizing creative outlets like art or music to express and empower oneself.

Mental Self-Care:
  • Prioritizing activities and connections that boost mental energy.

  • Using positive affirmations, daily mantras, and reading inspiring books.

  • Journaling can be a powerful tool for creating a positive headspace.

Spiritual Self-Care:
  • Connecting with spirituality through nature, religious communities, or personal sacred spaces.

  • Engaging in practices like worship, prayer, or meditation that resonate with you.

Personal Self-Care:
  • Defining self-care based on personal preferences, hobbies, and short-term goals.

  • Allocating time for activities and hobbies the survivor enjoys, working towards their goals.

Remind survivors of this: “It's not selfish to take care of yourself, it's necessary. You deserve peace, happiness, and support."

In the midst of holiday obligations and expectations, and the unique challenges survivors face, supporting survivors of domestic violence to prioritize self-care and embrace the gift of peace, happiness, and well-being this holiday season is one of the greatest gifts you can give.

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